On a recent morning:
Beast: Now, don’t take this the wrong way, but do you think after you wash my shirts you could just hang them up rather than folding them? The way you fold them leaves them wrinkled.
Foodie: Sure! I don’t mind at all. Why do you think I would take that the wrong way? [Pause] Hey, here’s an alternative idea: How about you do your own fucking laundry?
We have moths and mice, two not entirely uncommon pests to find in old houses this time of year. And it’s initiated a cleaning and purging rampage the likes of which we’ve never performed before: no closet, instrument or pair of shoes is safe from being tossed into a Good Will-bound garbage bag. And no base board has not been wiped down.
This spring cleaning is a little different, though. In the past, when I find mouse droppings, I tear apart the cupboards, which–thank goodness–the little critters have never gotten into (they remain on the floor) and wash everything incessantly. And the moths have tended only to gravitate to my sweaters, usually the ones I wear and love most. I spend a hundred bucks getting everything dry cleaned and set out poison and traps for the mice. (In a few weeks, both pests seem to disappear.) All the while I’m screaming something about “diseases” and “disgusting” downstairs and the Beast is upstairs in his own little world surrounded by filth and chaos, creating art or something. It used to drive me nuts–out of jealousy. I can’t work in chaos. Where ever I’m working, my eyeline needs to be cleared of clutter.
This time around, however, the Beast has had a taste of the manic temperament normal people experience during a pest infiltration. Maybe it’s because he has more sweaters than I do now. Or maybe it’s because he’s 30. He can’t ignore it, like he used to.
In fact, he initiated the entire current cleaning. It started something like this:
Beast: I can’t work on Bumble Bear surrounded by this filth! [Bumble Bear is a children’s book that the Beast wrote when he was 21 and his friend Nick Edwards started to illustrate. Together, the words and images make for a beautiful, incredibly touching tale. But the project was put aside and forgotten about–until the Beast’s dad gathered the unfinished text and worked with Nick Edwards to lay out a draft to inspire the Beast on his 30th birthday. It worked.]
Foodie: FINALLY! Finally you care! Well, YOU can do something about this time. I’m busy watching X Files on Netflix.
Beast: You know what your problem is? You never did the proper research before. I’ve been on the Internet and dust is the big problem here. This house is filthy. And I have too much stuff.
Foodie: Do you think so?
So every night after work, since getting back from New York, the Beast has been going through his records, closet, instruments and curating. At first, my only contribution was to come home and make us dinner. One evening I made a pasta with cherry tomatoes, the first of the Ontario asparagus, fresh mint and a little parmigiano, which we enjoyed in the living room–surrounded by garbage bags, six keyboards, a rain stick and old weights all bound for Good Will–while watching that PBS documentary on New York made by Rick Burns.
Foodie: This is a nice white wine you bought.
Beast: It’s a chardonnay. I’m really trying to branch out. This is the first white I’ve bought that isn’t a pinot grigio from southern Italy. [Pause] Or a Graves.
Foodie: What’s this brooch and pair of earrings on the coffee table?
Beast: Oh, remember I bought the brooch so I could try to wear that Yves Saint Laurent blanket as a cloak? [He never explained the earrings.]
Foodie: Oh right.
Beast: Do you want it?
Foodie: Um, I’m okay.
Beast: Do you think I should put it in the giveaway pile?
Foodie: I think you should keep it. Do you want me to put it with my jewellery?
Beast: Ah, no, that’s okay. I’ve got my own jewellery section upstairs.
Eventually, the urge to purge struck me too. We’ve demonstrated some excellent team work through it all. For example, one night the Beast filled up his parents’ car to the max and made a run to the Good Will while I made a frittata for dinner.
Beast [getting home]: What is that glorious smell?
Foodie: I’m frying potatoes in butter to form the base of a frittata!
Beast: The Good Will took everything, but when the lady saw the encyclopedia set she said they didn’t accept them. I’d already lugged half of them to the door and I asked if she’d take just those. She said okay and then I snuck the other half over when she wasn’t looking!
Foodie: Nice one!
As the frittata, to which I added red pepper, red onion and chives, crisped up under the broiler, the Beast and I enjoyed a quiet moment sipping on Campari, which we bought at the Duty Free, and soda. As I reflected on how much the Beast has grown up,and become less cynical in his old age, this happened.
Foodie [looking through my new issue of Bon Appetit]: You know, I’ve never really cooked Asian food before. I wonder if we should get into it.
Beast: No thanks. I don’t want to be one of those people.
Foodie: What do you mean?
Beast: People who are “known” for cooking just fabulous ethnic food. “Oh my god have you tried Greg’s Indian? It’s amazing!” You know what I think? Greg can go fuck himself.